Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 391–411 | Cite as

Environmental tariffs on polluting imports

An empirical study
  • Muthukumara S. Mani


This paper examines the implications for the use of trade measures as “weapons” to address global environmental concerns. There are already proposals in the U.S. senate to impose an environmental tariff against foreign nations whose cost advantages stem from less stringent environmental standards than the U.S. The paper argues that trade policy measures typically are not the first best instruments for achieving environmental objectives. Even theoretically they could be shown to be welfare improving only under a very narrow range of circumstances. Their use in place of more efficient policy instruments may not only end up distorting the patterns of world trade but also may worsen the overall patterns of environmental quality. Simulation exercises undertaken here suggest that it is highly unlikely that countries would alter their environmental behavior because of the imposition of the proposed U.S. tariff. Hence the proposed legislation has very uncertain environmental consequences. Even if the policy has been mainly designed to protect domestic industries, it would only provide a minor margin of protection because the costs of complying with the environmental standards represent a relatively small element in the total costs. The analysis suggests that trade policy introduced in this fashion will have no significant impact on the patterns of world trade and pollution.

Key words

environmental tariff pollution abatement expenditures pollution-intensity trade policy transnational pollution 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Muthukumara S. Mani
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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